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Op-ed, blogs and columns

Thoughts from a BRAG cyclist


By William Young

Progress contributor

When the throng of bicycles rolled through Jasper last week, I had the privilege and the pleasure of being with them.

I huffed, puffed and pedaled from Fort Oglethorpe to Dalton to Jasper to Roswell to Winder to Mount Airy to Tiger. In skin tight pants and on a hard, skinny plastic seat I and several hundred others had well over 300 miles of fun.


Most people can't see any pleasure whatsoever in sweating all day and pushing pedals. In fact, when you rattle off daily mileages to friends  or co-workers, you just get a blank stare.                         


Those numbers are as incomprehensible to the non rider as the trillion dollar deficit. But quietly rolling along the countryside at bicycling's slower pace gives a great opportunity to see your surroundings and smell the magnolias.

Pedaling through North Georgia's hills and valleys, one is awed by their beauty.  Likewise,  man's adornments such as paved roads and fine houses with well manicured lawns leads us to wonder, is this the product of mere evolution or did it come about through some master plan with a master planner?

We know for certain, however, that the next uphill climb will bring heavy breathing, sweat and straining legs.  We also know that when we reach our destination for the day we will be tired.  Do we call that fun? Churning down the road in a heavy downpouring rain, can we call that fun?

The Bicycle Ride Across Georgia is an organized ride, not a race. Each year (this was the 33rd),  the organizers pick a different route through different towns.  People from all walks of life and all over the country come for this event.


I see riders in all shapes and sizes from under eight to over eighty.  Dan Pool, Mike McGhee and I were there to represent Jasper. On BRAG, each morning at the crack of dawn fellow riders are in a good mood. Every afternoon, even though they are hot, sweaty and tired, they are in a good mood.

Out on the road, everyone is cheerful. For me, that took a while for me to understand. I finally realized that the BRAG riders are there because they want to be. And they are there to have a good time.


The riding is hard work. It is also a challenge. The rider has a goal each day. Reaching the top of each hill is also a goal. Reaching those goals is a struggle with hard work and pain. But accomplishing those goals bring pride and pleasure, fun and enjoyment.  There is pride  in accomplishment. If you are not proud of yourself after a hilly, hard and hot seventy mile day, don't expect anybody else to be proud of you for anything.


Bicycling being the good exercise that it is, you're tired at the end of the week, but there is a feeling of strength and a feeling of well being that will stay with you for months to come.  At the end of the ride I'm tired but I'm happy.

Completing a ride like this is a privilege and a blessing.

[Young is a regular contributor to the Progress, chronicling a lifetime of adventures in this area and is also active in the Sassafras Literary group.]


Above, bikes lean in front of the Chief Vann House during the 2012 BRAG ride.

Summer chores and allowances for kids, Jasper life coach offers advice

By Vicki Roberts

Certified Life Coach


From a Progress reader, “My elementary and middle school kids will be out of school. While it seems like there is a lot of free time, much is taken up by camps, sports and other fun activities. How is the best way to set standard chore schedules? And should an allowance be tied to them completing the jobs?”


Dear Reader,  This is a great time to not only answer your question, but also expand to include how to entertain kids that may not have their time filled with planned activities.

First, let's be sure that we feel comfortable leaving kids home alone without supervision.  Here is a web site I came across with a test that will help you determine if your child is mature enough for this challenge.

Kids should have chores during the school year and that should not stop during the summer. Whatever chores your child was responsible for should continue throughout the summer.  But, it's not fair to have a child spend their summer cleaning a house. Just because they have more time on their hands does not mean they should have to spend it cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and such. As far as paying kids for chores, there are two ways to think about that.            


  Adults can't make money without working. So, our kids should know that if you don't work, you don't get paid.

On the other hand, once a teenager starts to work, they could say, "I'm making $8 an hour at my job and that's enough, I don't want to do chores anymore."

My belief, handed down by my mother, is that when you are part of a family, you help around the house because everyone in a family needs to contribute in some way.

Allowance can be given as a lesson in finances rather than payment for chores. Teach your child to spend some wisely, save some, and give some away to a charity they choose.

Normally, by the time your youngster is 17 or so, they will have a summer job. So that means that a true summer vacation (approximately 75 consecutive days off from school or work) won't be an option for long.  This is the time for FUN.  That doesn't mean no responsibilities, rules or structure.  But, make sure there is plenty of fun.

For many people, reading a good book is one of the most fun things to do.  If  your child is not a "reader," this may be a good opportunity to change that.

A lot of kids hate to read.  They don't want to even pick up a book and try it. One reason may be that the type of book they had to read in school didn't hold their interest.

Take your child to the library and let them browse. Have them read the first several pages of some books to determine if it looks promising.

Then, let them check out three or four of the ones that they think they will enjoy. Be sure they are taking this seriously because the rule at this point is they have to read at least one of the books. Decide how many pages a day is reasonable for your child and expect them to read at least that. Ask them what characters they like and to describe them. Ask about the plot and what they like or dislike about it. It their writing skills need work, ask that they write a short report about the book when they are finished.  As soon as they are finished with their books, be sure and get back to the library for more.

You may have an avid reader by the end of the summer!

If you work full time and there is no one available to take your child to the pool, lake, movies, etc. be sure to have plenty of things at home to keep your child occupied. Buy some sketch pads, canvases, paints, and other crafty items. Start to keep a bag or basket with things you may normally throw away for them to use in art projects.  I recently bought an unfinished jewelry box, a tube of glue and brought my own  odds and ends for a child to decorate the box.  She used a poker chip, miscellaneous fabric samples, a few pennies, some buttons, a few playing cards, and old earring .......just look around your house or in your purse and you will get plenty of ideas.

Don't be shy about asking a relative or close friend with time available to take your kids someplace fun.

If you can take a day off here and there, do it. Take your kid(s) and their friends someplace fun.  Maybe your kid's friends mom or dad will reciprocate and take your kids one day while you are working!  If you don't work and you are taking your kids fun places, it's nice to offer to take the friend of your child that may be stuck at home all summer with nothing to do.

Vicki Roberts is a Certified Life Coach and can help you in many aspects of your life including develping friendships.  Vicki can be reached at 678-982-5304 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Her web site is

Film Production in Pickens County Economic Blockbuster or Flop?

By Gerry Nechvatal

Pickens County Economic Development Director

     By now it is no secret to most that the new Clint Eastwood, Justin Timberlake, and Amy Adams movie Trouble with the Curve will be filming a scene at a Jasper location in April. And while this is very exciting, it has sparked some debate about the impact it will have on the community from an economic standpoint.

Taken as a singular occurrence the value may be relatively small, as is any two day event or festival, but the objective is not to just have this be a one time event.

Georgia has created a very favorable business environment for entertainment productions as well as established programs such as “Camera Ready” through the Georgia Department of Economic Development in order to recruit these types of opportunities to the State.

     These efforts have been very successful as recently documented in a trade industry publication ranking Georgia #3 in top places to film, coming in only behind California and Connecticut. Upcoming releases filmed in Georgia include Joyful Noise, Jayne Mansfield’s Car and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The list of actors is impressive with big name stars such as Dolly Parton, Robert Duval, Kevin Bacon, Cameron Diaz, and Jennifer Lopez.

     Not wanting to overlook any potential avenue to increase economic activity in Pickens County as well as to support the Georgia Department of Economic Development, we chose to participate early in the Camera Ready program and as a result the community has been scouted for several films.

     The State helicopter landed in Talking Rock last summer with the Director and Crew scouting a location to film a new version of The Great Locomotive Chase, and in addition, a location in the county was one of the finalists for the upcoming “Dirty Dancing” remake. We were selected and several articles have appeared in the Progress about the scenes filmed by emerging movie companies in numerous locations throughout Jasper and Pickens County.

     So what will result from Trouble with the Curve?

     Aside from Jasper being promoted through talk on Atlanta radio and being listed as a location on the Internet Movie Data Base (, much may be determined by the experience of the production company and the actors.

     During the scouting and the location preparation we have worked hard to make their experiences very positive and hassle-free so that within the entertainment industry the reputation of Jasper and Pickens County is that it is a great place to make movies. On the upcoming filming dates it is vital for all members of the community to do their part to insure the same.

     If you want to someday meet a star, help make sure their experience is one they wish to repeat, not forget, so that the future of film here is an economic blockbuster, not a flop.


Is Your Senior Headed to College? No? Maybe?

By Vicki Roberts,
Life Coach

The school year is almost over and some of you have children graduating from high school. If they have been accepted to  a college or university, then you are likely feeling relieved that they are moving in the right direction toward their future. 
But, what  if your dream or plan is for your child to attend college and your child either does not want to go, or hasn't decided? 
We all want our children to have options and advantages.  Getting a  degree will certainly ensure that they have more of both. We also want them to  have the well rounded knowledge and experiences that come with college  life. 
But, we can't demand that our kids further their education.  However, there are some things we can do to  encourage them.
The first thing is make sure your child knows what their  choices are. Before they decide to get a job instead of going back to  school, encourage them to know all the facts, pros and cons  of their options. 
Make an appointment for you and your  child with your child's counselor at school. See what opportunities are available and what schools your child can apply to with a good chance of  acceptance.  
Keep in mind  that if finances are an issue, or your child is not ready to “go away” to  school, they can take core classes nearby.  It's also a good idea to look at what the employment  opportunities are for the type of major your child is interested in.  
Find out what kind of job or career your child wants and what the  opportunities are without a degree.
Many kids have very unrealistic aspirations. Some think they can attend a beauty college and  work in a salon in Atlanta , charging $100 a haircut. That is not  likely. Be sure your kids are not being  unrealistic.  
Reassure your child that college is not a continuation of  high school. They will not be treated like children any more.  Most college students think  that college is far more interesting and fun than high school.  
Many kids who did  not get good grades in high school do much better in college because they  are a little older, wiser and involved with what they are learning.
Offer financial assistance if you can. If an 18 year old has the  choice between making their own living and paying their own bills, or going to  school and still having their parents pay the bills, some will choose to delay supporting themselves. 
If you cannot afford to support your  child and pay for school, books, and spending money, offer to do as much as  you can and take advantage of student loans.
Let your child know they can  live at home rent free as long as they are going to school and that you  will support them as much as you did when they were in high school.
If they say they want to work and live on their own, give them a  reality check by sitting down with them and writing down a realistic  budget. 
Show them on paper what a high school graduate can expect to  earn;  then deduct taxes, rent, phone, electricity, car insurance,  gasoline and all the other  expenses they will likely incur.  Once they  see what is left over for clothes and fun, remind them that cars sometimes need to be repaired.
Be sure  they know that living at home rent free if they choose not to attend school is NOT an option.
Go visit a college campus with your child. Simply seeing the  environment could make your child see college life as fun or the type of  experience they want to have.
If you went to college, share the positive experiences you had with your  teen. If you did not attend college, let your child know why you wish  that you had had that opportunity and in what ways your life might have been easier or better.
Finally, be sure your child knows you will love them whether they go to  college now, later or never.

[Vicki Roberts is a Certified Life Coach, practicing in Pickens County. You can visit her web site  at   or call her at  678-982-5304.  To post a question for Vickito address in The Progress, email her at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .]

Eclectic Finds: My thoughts on retail vacancies in Jasper

By Royce Haley,

Co-owner Burnt Mountain Trading Company

An editorial a couple weeks ago on vacancies in downtown invited input.  I would like to share some thoughts, observations and insight that I have on this subject. I don’t claim or profess to be an expert on this subject; just someone in the trenches observing, learning, and asking questions along the way.  I am however, a retail business person that does have a vested interest in the success and growth of downtown if not Pickens County. Too often, I find people have an opinion on this subject that have never had their own retail business, yet people drink their cool-aide and promote or elect them to represent us, the retail merchants that drive business and tax dollars into our community!  This is one of a two part article that I have written to share my thoughts on this subject (look for the other next week in this spot).

Without people flocking to Jasper currently, Jasper real estate needs an eye opener. Currently, Jasper’s commercial real estate pricing, whether buying or renting, is as high as Roswell, Marietta, Ellijay and even Blue Ridge.

The difference between Jasper and the cities I just mentioned are people. Example, our store in Roswell on any given Saturday will see a thousand customers. Our store in Jasper won’t see a thousand customers in a whole month. It is a numbers game. Say your rent is $1,000 per month. Utilities would run about $500 per month: phone, water, trash, electricity, gas and insurance. Then if you had to pay someone, (however most business owners don’t take a paycheck) count in another $2,400 per month. So, just to open the door, a small business owner is looking at $3,900.

Retail is somewhat of a numbers game. If you could sell 10 percent of your inventory in a month (which is rare, but still a goal), you are doing very well.  So, to cover your base overhead, you need to have at least $39,000 dollars worth of inventory. But, that only pays the basic operating costs. That still doesn’t pay for the inventory that was sold.  Realistically, you need to sell $7,800 worth of merchandise to cover your costs. That still doesn’t give you any profit…you are just paying the bills. One thing to consider, if you are working on selling 10 percent of your inventory as a goal, that just brought your inventory totals up to $78,000. How many people can open a business with $100,000 as starting capitol?

If your average cost per item is $5, then you would have to sell 1,560 items per month just to break even; or 52 items per day. If you only have 1,000 people per month visit your store, that breaks down to 33 people per day.  If you HAVE  to sell 52 items per day to stay afloat, then statistically every person that walks in your store has to purchase more than one item. Realistically, about 30-40 percent of your customers purchase something.

The reason there are so many vacancies in Jasper is because the building owners are charging the same per square foot in Jasper as they get in Roswell. There should be more of a difference in rent in Jasper than Roswell. Example, downtown Atlanta charges more per square foot than in Buckhead.  Buckhead charges more per square foot than in Roswell. See the pattern.              The rents should be based on traffic and what people can afford, not just a hypothetical “they charge this much, so we will too!” Isn’t that why we are in such a huge real estate glut now?

Without using actual value and market studies, just placing a price on it because the banks weren’t double checking the numbers? I know the landlords don’t want to hear this, but until foot traffic picks up, the buildings will stay empty unless they lower the rent. I don’t understand their logic of preferring to have an empty building.  They still have to pay taxes whether the building is occupied or not.  Wouldn’t a little rental income to cover utilities, taxes, and maybe just a little left over for your pocket, be much better than having to pay 100 percent of the costs all on your own?

Put together a 3 to 5 year plan, and revisit the amount of rent being collected and if business is up, then increase the rent.  Stay tuned for part two.

 [Royce Hayley is the co-owner of Burnt Mountain Trading Company at 14 Mark Whitfield St, along with Canton Street Antique Market in Roswell, and is planning on opening a third store in Blue Ridge this year. He currently is in the process of writing 2 travel books. Haley lives in the Burnt Mountain area for over 12 years now. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .]